About a month ago the omnipresent Christian radio station KLOVE wrapped up its fundraising drive. You probably heard it, too. Pleas went out for more funding and you had kids giving their allowances, businesses committing, single moms pledging, families pledging, the works. God bless 'em if that's how the Lord is leading them to spend their money. The radio in my Volvo doesn't work anymore, one of the effects I suspect of a vehicle with 323,000+ miles on it, so I don't listen to KLOVE as much as I have in the past. I do spend more time in the Volvo praying, which is a good thing. KLOVE is about our only option out here in Gloucester, Va., as far as Christian radio, so we listen to it in the van. I'm really not sure where I stand on KLOVE ... I appreciate the effort to bring Christian music to the masses on a platform that literally stretches across the country. But I hear the same songs over and over again and many times I'm looking for something fresher and seem to hear songs I heard 10 years ago again and again. As I said to Ethan a week or so ago while we were riding in the van, "Is no one making any decent Christian music anymore?" That being said, I decided to take a peek at KLOVE's books as I did about a year and a half ago on this blog. Let's just say being one of the bigwigs at KLOVE pays off handsomely.
As I mentioned, KLOVE stretches across the country and has radio stations and transmitters all over the place, so it's a big business from that standpoint with lots of employees. The parent organization of KLOVE, Educational Media Foundation, reported revenues last year of $88.2 million, according to forms filed with the IRS. Total payroll, including benefits and taxes, topped $25 million and net revenue was $16.7 million, according to the forms filed with the IRS.
I'm sure you've all heard the voice of KLOVE President Mike Novak, especially at pledge time, and last year (2009) his total compensation was $506,198, according to documents filed with the IRS. Think about that for a minute ... wow, that's a ton of money. It takes 12,655 people pledging $40 a month just to cover his compensation. Is he operating Christian radio stations or working on Wall Street? He received $343,792 in base compensation (that's $28,649 per month) and "bonus & incentive" compensation of $110,000 (A lot of us got bonuses on par with that last year, right?), other reportable compensation of $9,628, retirement & deferred compensation of $22,549 and "nontaxable benefits" of $20,229. The big question to me is what is acceptable for a guy of Novak's position and stature? Is $506,198 acceptable, considering there's no disclaimer come pledge time that 12,655 of you monthly pledgers are just paying for Mike? As the guy who runs what essentially is a national organization, is he deserving of that paycheck?
Here's a couple of head-scratchers from the IRS forms. Dick Jenkins, the former president who is no longer with KLOVE, received $300,000 in "other reportable" compensation and another $13,196 in nontaxable benefits. That's only 7,830 $40-per-month pledgers to pay for a guy no listed as the "former president." Speaking of guys no longer with the organization ... former radio personality and programming director Jon Rivers left KLOVE in early 2009 and earned $261,543 in "other reportable" compensation and $3,659 in retirement and other deferred compensation last year, for a total of $265,202. Rivers subsequently attributed his departure to an addiction to prescription painkillers and maybe there was a contract or something that KLOVE couldn't get out of. Who knows. All told, KLOVE listed 14 people earning a minimum of $114,000 or more last year on its IRS forms. Not bad for Christian non-profit work.
Don't be fooled. "Christian ministry" often seems to be simply big business operating as a "non-profit." Sure there's plenty of good hearts out there at KLOVE with a desire to serve Jesus Christ and play Christian music and the like. But when and where does "Christian ministry" blur the line between personal gain? I think whether you are a pastor at a church, a CEO of a Christian "non-profit" organization, a missionary, or in whatever capacity you believe the Lord is calling you and leading you and directing you, when it comes to money the question always boils down to whether or not the Lord gives you a peace about your paycheck. Is there any check at all on your heart? When you read the Bible every morning (hopefully you're reading the Bible ...) are you paying attention to what is being said about money? How do you justify these paychecks? The Apostle Paul had something to say about this: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. 6:10 NKJV) Jesus, the ultimate authority, weighed in on this: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV)